The Importance of Family Meal Time
The benefits of family mealtime –
Relationships– Eating together helps build a close relationship with your children. It gives everyone in the family a chance to learn more about each other. Turn off the TV and do not answer the phone during mealtime. Instead use this time to talk, connect, and make memories together. It is a lesson your children will use for life.
Better Nutrition– Meals prepared at home are usually more nutritious than
meals eaten while dining out.
Portion Sizes– Children learn about correct portion sizes, food groups, and
nutrition when eating with their family. Let the children learn by serving
themselves at dinner. Teach them to take small amounts at first. Tell them
they can get more if they are still hungry.
Saves Money– Eating at home saves the family money. It is cheaper to cook meals at home than it is to dine out.
Cooking Skills– Get everyone involved in meal preparation. Kids love to help prepare food. Letting them help prepare food will help them feel valued and part of the family.
Social Skills– Eating together as a family gives the children an opportunity to learn and practice their social skills, table manners, and conversation skills.
New Foods– Offer your children new foods, but do not force them to eat it. Let them choose how much to eat. Kids are more likely to enjoy a food when eating it is their own choice. It also helps them learn to be independent.
Keys to enjoyable family mealtimes –
Have a healthy snack ready– Arriving home from school or work may be hectic and children may be ready to eat right away. Have a healthy snack ready for kids to enjoy before dinner time.
Make mealtime timely– Kids need time to sit down and eat their food, but it does not have to take a long time. Sitting for too long can lead to irritability and decrease mealtime enjoyment.
Meals do not have to be fancy– Meals for the family do not have to involve a lot of preparation and time. They can be pre- made meals or simple recipes such as grilled cheese, apple slices, and tomato soup.
Plan ahead to save time– For example, cook double the amount of meat you need on Monday night, so that you can use the extra precooked meat for Tuesday’s meal.
Be a good example– Your children are more likely to eat a variety of healthy foods if they see you doing it first. Try to include food from each of the five food groups.
Handout from University of Nebraska Nutrition Education Program